Will Ellen Pompeo, Patrick Dempsey Really Leave Grey's Anatomy?

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Patrick Dempsey recently said that the upcoming eighth season of Grey's Anatomy is likely going to be his last. But is there any chance he could be back beyond that?

He didn't sound like it when he said that leaving would be “bittersweet because it’s been great and a great part of my life, but I can’t see me doing it anymore.”

Still, a rep for the actor backtracked a bit late yesterday.

"He was referring to the fact that his contract is up at the end of next season and we have no idea what the future holds," Dempsey's rep tells E! News.

In the Bed

So while there's still the possibility that Dempsey will hang up his stethoscope in 2012, especially if Ellen Pompeo packs it in, nothing is set in stone yet.

"No one has asked us to come back after season eight, so I couldn't presume that I'm coming back... if I haven't been invited," Pompeo said last week.

The long and short of it is that the original cast is only under contract through May 2012. Beyond that, a new deal must be offered - and agreed to.

The cast members would be free to go their separate ways summber, and having spent seven years on (and banked millions from) Grey's, they may do so.

The show certainly has a lot of characters at this stage, but are Derek and Meredith (and Cristina, among others) crucially central to Grey's Anatomy?

Put another way, would the show lose viewers without them? Or would newer stars be able to step in and carry the baton for many seasons to come?

Leave a comment and discuss below ...

Steve Marsi is the Managing Editor of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Google+ or email him here.

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Grey's Anatomy Quotes

[narrating] "At the end of the day, when it comes down to it, all we really want is to be close to somebody. So this thing where we all keep our distance and pretend not to care about each other, it's usually a load of bull. So we pick and choose who we want to remain close to, and once we've chosen those people, we tend to stick close by. No matter how much we hurt them. The people that are still with you at the end of the day, those are the ones worth keeping. And sure, sometimes close can be too close. But sometimes, that invasion of personal space, it can be exactly what you need."

MEREDITH

Did you say it? 'I love you. I don't ever want to live without you. You changed my life.' Did you say it? Make a plan. Set a goal. Work toward it, but every now and then, look around; Drink it in 'cause this is it. It might all be gone tomorrow."

Meredith (closing voiceover)